Here are three very different, all equally wonderful reads and I hope you will check them out!

STEEL ANIMALS by  S K Dyment 

About the book:
Hilarity and queer magic realism twist the throttle when Jackie, a loner with a secret bank-robbing persona, meets Vespa: sexy, sculpture-welding artist and collector of vintage motorbikes. Still planning elaborate revenge on a New York ex-lover, Jackie tests both her new relationship and the loyalties of her friends, a rag-tag gang of post-punk eccentrics, realizing how love changes hatred only after her scheme runs out of control. An innocent misstep and an encrypted mystery swings the romance into the dangerous orbit of a construction mogul intent on subverting corporate money at any cost. (Inanna Publications)

My Review
Ursula Pflug (author of The Alphabet Stones, Motion Sickness and Mountain) has flagged this book to become a cult classic and I fully second that! I’m not sure it’s possible to adequately describe the joy of reading Steel Animals! The poetic brilliance of the writing, along with razor-sharp insights into art, love, sex, nature, relationships, consumerism, the perception of the self, the philosophy of art, our connections to one other and the things that surround us, is a real treat.

The writing sparks every sense to vivid life, cracking like Absolut cherry pop-rocks exploding on your tongue, delighting you at every turn.

-.-

AN EXILE'S PERFECT LETTER by Larry Mathews

About the book:
Sixty-two-year-old English professor Hugh Norman is getting ready to retire and just going through the motions. He's detached, irreverent, and quite pleased with himself. But then he learns of a long-lost friend's sudden death, and shockingly discovers a body while walking through a city park. Suddenly, over just a few days, Hugh is compelled to deal with a large cast of eccentric characters and a police detective who has taken a sudden interest in his life. With a perfect sense of comedic timing, An Exile's Perfect Letter is a portrait of a man forced to come of age all over again. It's a send-up, a love story, an elegy for lost youth, and a celebration of friendships that stand the test of time. (Breakwater Books)

My review:
The funny thing is, I thought I had posted about this book at the end of last year but I didn’t actually do it! I wrote the review in my head and I guess I imagined the rest! I met Larry Mathews at the FogLit Festival and immediately purchased his book. His reading was great and the book was a delight to read! It reminded me of my university days (which made me happy) and I loved Hugh Norman with his self-deprecating insights into aging, love, writing, poetry and life in St. John’s Newfoundland. I was sorry when the novel came to an end, I wanted to keep hanging out with Hugh! I loved the observations on writing and it made me stop (and worry!) that I had committed the sins that Hugh points out with such scathing clarity! A highly-enjoyable read with a lot of excellent humour about art, the politics of tenure, fame, crime and the meaning of life.

-.-

THE KNOCKOFF ECLIPSE by Melissa Bull

About the book:
Melissa Bull’s debut short story collection The Knockoff Eclipse hums with the immediacy of distant and future worlds. Firmly rooted in the streets and landmarks of Montreal and its many neighbourhoods and subcultures, Bull’s characters shine with the dirt of digging just deep enough.

Dark like Duras, flippant comme Sagan, with elements of the surreal running through, these Montreal stories are modern feminist fables for the reader who is decidedly uninterested in upholding the moral of the story as it’s been traditionally told. (Anvil Press)

My review:
The short stories in this are so powerful I had to pace reading them. They don’t hold back any punches and this book offers some of the most vivid ‘in another’s body’ experience I’ve read. You smell the sunburn, the lake water, the dirt, taste the tears, feel the cold and hear the voices as clearly as if the characters were standing in the same room. Gritty, tough, with lives on the edge of falling apart and yet, they just don’t… just. The stories are vignettes of the beautiful intimacy that can be found in quiet and precious moments and the very real sense that sometimes, just being is enough.


    
Here are three very different, all equally wonderful reads and I hope you will check them out!v

STEEL ANIMALS by  S K Dyment 

About the book:
Hilarity and queer magic realism twist the throttle when Jackie, a loner with a secret bank-robbing persona, meets Vespa: sexy, sculpture-welding artist and collector of vintage motorbikes. Still planning elaborate revenge on a New York ex-lover, Jackie tests both her new relationship and the loyalties of her friends, a rag-tag gang of post-punk eccentrics, realizing how love changes hatred only after her scheme runs out of control. An innocent misstep and an encrypted mystery swings the romance into the dangerous orbit of a construction mogul intent on subverting corporate money at any cost. (Inanna Publications)

My Review
Ursula Pflug (author of The Alphabet Stones, Motion Sickness and Mountain) has flagged this book to become a cult classic and I fully second that! I’m not sure it’s possible to adequately describe the joy of reading Steel Animals! The poetic brilliance of the writing, along with razor-sharp insights into art, love, sex, nature, relationships, consumerism, the perception of the self, the philosophy of art, our connections to one other and the things that surround us, is a real treat.

The writing sparks every sense to vivid life, cracking like Absolut cherry pop-rocks exploding on your tongue, delighting you at every turn.

-.-

AN EXILE'S PERFECT LETTER by Larry Mathews

About the book:
Sixty-two-year-old English professor Hugh Norman is getting ready to retire and just going through the motions. He's detached, irreverent, and quite pleased with himself. But then he learns of a long-lost friend's sudden death, and shockingly discovers a body while walking through a city park. Suddenly, over just a few days, Hugh is compelled to deal with a large cast of eccentric characters and a police detective who has taken a sudden interest in his life. With a perfect sense of comedic timing, An Exile's Perfect Letter is a portrait of a man forced to come of age all over again. It's a send-up, a love story, an elegy for lost youth, and a celebration of friendships that stand the test of time. (Breakwater Books)

My review:
The funny thing is, I thought I had posted about this book at the end of last year but I didn’t actually do it! I wrote the review in my head and I guess I imagined the rest! I met Larry Mathews at the FogLit Festival and immediately purchased his book. His reading was great and the book was a delight to read! It reminded me of my university days (which made me happy) and I loved Hugh Norman with his self-deprecating insights into aging, love, writing, poetry and life in St. John’s Newfoundland. I was sorry when the novel came to an end, I wanted to keep hanging out with Hugh! I loved the observations on writing and it made me stop (and worry!) that I had committed the sins that Hugh points out with such scathing clarity! A highly-enjoyable read with a lot of excellent humour about art, the politics of tenure, fame, crime and the meaning of life.

-.-

THE KNOCKOFF ECLIPSE by Melissa Bull

About the book:
Melissa Bull’s debut short story collection The Knockoff Eclipse hums with the immediacy of distant and future worlds. Firmly rooted in the streets and landmarks of Montreal and its many neighbourhoods and subcultures, Bull’s characters shine with the dirt of digging just deep enough.

Dark like Duras, flippant comme Sagan, with elements of the surreal running through, these Montreal stories are modern feminist fables for the reader who is decidedly uninterested in upholding the moral of the story as it’s been traditionally told. (Anvil Press)

My review:
The short stories in this are so powerful I had to pace reading them. They don’t hold back any punches and this book offers some of the most vivid ‘in another’s body’ experience I’ve read. You smell the sunburn, the lake water, the dirt, taste the tears, feel the cold and hear the voices as clearly as if the characters were standing in the same room. Gritty, tough, with lives on the edge of falling apart and yet, they just don’t… just. The stories are vignettes of the beautiful intimacy that can be found in quiet and precious moments and the very real sense that sometimes, just being is enough.


    
Library of 2019 Features
STEEL ANIMALS by  S K Dyment 
About the book:
Hilarity and queer magic realism twist the throttle when Jackie, a loner with a secret bank-robbing persona, meets Vespa: sexy, sculpture-welding artist and collector of vintage motorbikes. Still planning elaborate revenge on a New York ex-lover, Jackie tests both her new relationship and the loyalties of her friends, a rag-tag gang of post-punk eccentrics, realizing how love changes hatred only after her scheme runs out of control. An innocent misstep and an encrypted mystery swings the romance into the dangerous orbit of a construction mogul intent on subverting corporate money at any cost. (Inanna Publications)


My Review

Ursula Pflug (author of The Alphabet Stones, Motion Sickness and Mountain) has flagged this book to become a cult classic and I fully second that! I’m not sure it’s possible to adequately describe the joy of reading Steel Animals! The poetic brilliance of the writing, along with razor-sharp insights into art, love, sex, nature, relationships, consumerism, the perception of the self, the philosophy of art, our connections to one other and the things that surround us, is a real treat.


The writing sparks every sense to vivid life, cracking like Absolut cherry pop-rocks exploding on your tongue, delighting you at every turn.


-.-


AN EXILE'S PERFECT LETTER by Larry Mathews
About the book:

Sixty-two-year-old English professor Hugh Norman is getting ready to retire and just going through the motions. He's detached, irreverent, and quite pleased with himself. But then he learns of a long-lost friend's sudden death, and shockingly discovers a body while walking through a city park. Suddenly, over just a few days, Hugh is compelled to deal with a large cast of eccentric characters and a police detective who has taken a sudden interest in his life. With a perfect sense of comedic timing, An Exile's Perfect Letter is a portrait of a man forced to come of age all over again. It's a send-up, a love story, an elegy for lost youth, and a celebration of friendships that stand the test of time. (Breakwater Books)


My review:
The funny thing is, I thought I had posted about this book at the end of last year but I didn’t actually do it! I wrote the review in my head and I guess I imagined the rest! I met Larry Mathews at the FogLit Festival and immediately purchased his book. His reading was great and the book was a delight to read! It reminded me of my university days (which made me happy) and I loved Hugh Norman with his self-deprecating insights into aging, love, writing, poetry and life in St. John’s Newfoundland. I was sorry when the novel came to an end, I wanted to keep hanging out with Hugh! I loved the observations on writing and it made me stop (and worry!) that I had committed the sins that Hugh points out with such scathing clarity! A highly-enjoyable read with a lot of excellent humour about art, the politics of tenure, fame, crime and the meaning of life.


-.-


THE KNOCKOFF ECLIPSE by Melissa Bull
About the book:

Melissa Bull’s debut short story collection The Knockoff Eclipse hums with the immediacy of distant and future worlds. Firmly rooted in the streets and landmarks of Montreal and its many neighbourhoods and subcultures, Bull’s characters shine with the dirt of digging just deep enough.

Dark like Duras, flippant comme Sagan, with elements of the surreal running through, these Montreal stories are modern feminist fables for the reader who is decidedly uninterested in upholding the moral of the story as it’s been traditionally told. (Anvil Press)


My review:
The short stories in this are so powerful I had to pace reading them. They don’t hold back any punches and this book offers some of the most vivid ‘in another’s body’ experience I’ve read. You smell the sunburn, the lake water, the dirt, taste the tears, feel the cold and hear the voices as clearly as if the characters were standing in the same room. Gritty, tough, with lives on the edge of falling apart and yet, they just don’t… just. The stories are vignettes of the beautiful intimacy that can be found in quiet and precious moments and the very real sense that sometimes, just being is enough.


-.-

NIGHTS ON PROSE MOUNTAIN by bpNichol (Coach House).
 
ABOUT THE BOOK: Nights on Prose Mountain gathers all of beloved writer bpNichol's published fiction. Originally appearing between 1968 and 1983, and representing almost the entire arc of Nichol's writing career, Nights on Prose Mountain is by turns heartbreaking, playful, and evocative. While Nichol's poetry is widely studied, researched and taught, his novels have remained out of print and are overdue for a new edition. Nichol's curiosity and craft, his exploration and exuberance, his lyricism and adventurousness are all on exhibit here. From the Governor General's Award-winning "The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid" through more obscure treasures like Extreme Positions, and including Still, For Jesus Lunatick, and Andy, Nights on Prose Mountain traces Nichol's life in fiction.
 
MY REVIEW:

I have read small excerpts of bpNichol’s writing before and of this book, I have only one thing to say – I need to a buy a copy! I borrowed this copy from the library but I will need much more time than afforded to me by a loan, to read and enjoy this book. Prologue (from Craft Dinner) had me mesmerized and Still was incredibly powerful. Yes, this will need several reads and rereads!
 
-.-
 
THE JOURNEY PRIZE,
is a collection of short stories selected by Kevin Hardcastle, Grace O’Connell and Ayelet Tsabari (McClelland & Stewart). I loved the stories in this collection. They carry a visceral sadness that will stay with you – but in a good way! I wanted to follow the lives of the characters in these stories, particularly, Reading Week by Sharon Bala, They Come Crying by Sarah Kabamba and A Girl and a Dog on a Friday Night by Kelly Ward.
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Like The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and the Best American Short Stories series, The Journey Prize Stories is one of the most celebrated annual literary anthologies in North America. For almost 30 years, the anthology has consistently introduced readers to the next generation of great Canadian authors, a tradition that proudly continues with this latest edition. With settings ranging from wartime China to an island off the coast of British Columbia, the ten stories in this collection represent the year's best short fiction by some of our most exciting emerging voices.     
        A young boy who believes he is being stalked by an unstoppable, malevolent entity discovers that he may not be the only one. In a sweeping story set against the fall of Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War, a pregnant woman waits anxiously for her doctor husband to leave the city before it's too late. A river that runs through a First Nations community is the source of sustenance, escape, and tragedy for a girl and her family. The haunting footage of the politically motivated self-immolation has unexpected reverberations for a Tibetan-Canadian woman dealing with multiple conflicts in her own life. A man who works a back-breaking job at an industrial mat cleaning service is pushed to his limit. When her mother has to return to Kinshasa to bury a family member, a girl gradually learns of the intricacy and depth of grief, in an evocative piece that illuminates the cultural gaps common within immigrant families, and the power of food and stories to bridge them.     

 
-.-
 
I picked up a copy of YOUNG VOICES published by the Toronto Public Library and was very moved by the selection of writing and the artwork.
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Toronto Public Library's magazine of creative writing and visual art, created and selected by Toronto teens, published annually for over fifty years. 
 
MY REVIEW:
This collection offers courageous and compelling insights into the lives of young people struggling with the complexities of school, love, becoming adults, watching their parents.  Very worth the read. One wants to gather all these ducklings and make the world a safe place for them but, as they are already all-too-aware, it’s too late for that, but one can move forward with brave hearts and a drive to create.
 
-.-
  
CLOCKWORK CANADA, The Exile Book of Anthology Series, Number Twelve, edited by Dominik Parisien.
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Welcome to an alternate Canada, where steam technology and the wonders and horrors of the mechanical age have reshaped the past into something both wholly familiar yet compellingly different. These fifteen supercharged all-new tales reimagine Canadian historical events, explore other Canadas, and gather inspiration from the northern landscape to make us wonder: what if history had gone a different way? 

Experience steam-powered buffalo women roaming the plains; visit brutal gas-lit working class streets; join extraordinary men and women striking out on their own or striving to build communities; marvel as giant rampaging spirits are thwarted by miniscule timepieces, at a great clock that when it chimes the Seven O’Clock Man appears to terrorize a small village in Quebec, or when a Maritime scientist develops a deadly new weapon that could change the course of the American civil war.
 
MY REVIEW:
While this book was published in 2016, I reread it very recently. The introduction by Parisien reads: “What started as Victorian retro-futurist fantasy has gone global and now spans across multiple historical periods. … Some of the stories contain steam, others don’t; clockwork frequently appears, as do automata, airships, trains, copper, brass, goggles, mechanical limbs; the works of Jules Verne inspire a character or two; the magical and the mechanical sometimes coexist; alternate history is often at the forefront; and great and fantastical inventions abound.” And this is very true! If you’re looking for a different kind of anthology, I recommend Clockwork Canada!

    
-.-
 
THE MOTHER SUITE by Ruth Zuchter (AngelHousePress)
I’ve long admired the work published by AngelHousePress. I was first introduced to them with Of Being Underground and Moving Backwards by Heather Babcock which was listed on The Minerva Reader when I first started the site. Heather has a book scheduled with Inanna in 2020, Filthy Sugar and I was delighted to read an early copy of the book – readers are in for a treat with Filthy Sugar!
 
And, most recently from AngelHousePress, and part of today’s features, is The Mother Suite by Ruth Zuchter.
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Through letters, diary entries, snippets of remembered conversations and post cards,
Ruth Zuchter collages together a portrait of a complicated mother-daughter relationship in The Mother Suite.
 
MY REVIEW:
Maternal relationships are seldom straightforward. In Ruth’s words: “Through letters, diary entries, snippets of remembered conversations & post cards, The Mother Suite collages together a portrait of the complexities of a mother-daughter/daughter as mother & caregiver relationship.”
 
And, what a powerful, compelling read it is. I feel like this collection speaks not only to the relationships between mothers and daughters but also to the complexities of the relationships we have with ourselves, our internal dialogues, observations and self-flaggellations. Being human is such a complex, wonderful, terrible mess and this collection speaks to all of that and does it so very beautifully. This is the kind of work that you could pick up on any given day and find a few sentences that sums it up exactly – you think, yes! That’s exactly how I’m feeling now and then you go about your day, cheered.
 
-.-
 
THE WAR BENEATH by Timothy S. Johnston (ChiZine)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Living and working underwater can be a dangerous thing. First the bulkheads sweat, then there’s a trickle of water, and then in an instant you’re gone. The only thing left is a bloody pulp in the dark water and crushed bone fragments on the seafloor.
And you can’t bolt to the surface in an emergency . . . The Bends will get you. But that’s not the worst. When you’re living underwater and also working as a spy for your city, that’s when things get really dangerous.

Truman McClusky has been out of the intelligence business for years, working the kelp farms and helping his city Trieste flourish on the shallow continental shelf just off the coast of Florida. Until his former partner shows up, that is, steals a piece of valuable new technology and makes a mad dash into the Atlantic. Before he knows it, Mac ends up back in the game, chasing the spy to not only recapture the tech, but to kill his former friend.
 
But when he learns the grim truth behind the theft, it sends his stable life into turmoil and plunges him into an even deadlier mission: evade the submarines of hostile foreign powers, escape assassins, and forge through the world’s oceans at breakneck pace on a daring quest to survive, with more lethal secrets than he thought possible in his pocket.
The future of the city depends on McClusky . . . if he can make it back home.
 
MY REVIEW:
I was immediately drawn in by the cover, with artwork by Erik Mohr (Made by Emblem) and the cover design by Jared Shapiro. Beautiful work!
 
And I loved the story – such a great concept of cities under the seas and the writing was so cinematic that I felt like I was there, in the seacar. It felt a little hard to breathe at times, which was the writer’s intention and it was very well done! Fast-paced, good old-fashioned Cold War espionage set underwater in 2099, this book offers a great escape! Shortlisted for the 2018 Global Thriller Award and Semi-Finalist for the 2018 CLUE Award.
 ​
-.-
 
SKYJACK by K.J. Howe (Headline)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The electrifying sequel to The Freedom Broker, featuring Thea Paris, a kidnap and ransom specialist. For Thea, kidnap is always personal - her brother's life was nearly ruined when he was taken as a child. Lisa Gardner says The Freedom Broker is 'clever and gritty' and Peter James calls it 'spellbinding'. If you like David Baldacci's King and Maxwell series, you will love this.

When Thea Paris's flight is hijacked over the Libyan Desert, her first priority is the two former child soldiers she is escorting to a new life in London.

As an international kidnap specialist, Thea Paris negotiates for hostage release as part of her job. She knows one wrong move could lead to deadly consequences.

After she is forcibly separated from the boys and the other passengers, Thea and her tactical team quickly regroup. And in their desperate search for the hostages that follows, unearth a conspiracy involving the CIA, the Vatican and the Sicilian Mafia, and a plot far more sinister than Thea could ever have imagined.
 
MY REVIEW:
Wow, K.J. Howe rocks! Talk about action-packed! Reading a Thea Paris book is like watching a Mission Impossible movie only we’ve got a sizzling hot female protagonist who thinks fast and acts even faster! I really enjoyed the characters in this book and I’m loving the Thea Paris series. It’s so great when you get to meet a heroine you really like and you look forward to the next book. I loved the way K.J. Howe writes – reminds me of Michael Connolly and his Bosch series – no padded fat, action all the way. And the plot keeps you on your toes with a lots of authentic details about the mechanics of flying.
 
-.-
 
SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC: A MARKETVILLE MYSTERY by Judy Penz Sheluk
(Barking Rain Press)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
 
What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
 
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
 
MY REVIEW:
I really enjoyed this fun read! I’m not generally much of a cozy reader but this felt  more like a Kinsey Millhone novel to me (Sue Grafton’s series), than a cozy. I really enjoyed the characters and the sense of small town intrigue, coupled with the secrets from yesteryear. Most families have skeletons in their attics and it was a fun adventure to find out the truth inside the coffin of this one! I look forward to reading more of Judy Penz Sheluk’s work!
 
-.-
 
CLAUDINE by Barbara Palmer (Penguin Canada)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Maria Lantos is a post grad Yale student researching illicit 18th-century literature. She’s become exceptionally well-versed in the narratives of classic erotic fantasy.

She’s also Claudine, an in-demand escort specializing in sexual role play for an elite clientele. Anonymous. Satisfying. And discreet.

Until the tenuous separation between her worlds starts to crack. It begins with the murder of a stranger. Where it leads is to two men who will test Maria's limits of control and awaken her own sexual desires.

As her private nights bleed into day, Maria will discover the dangerous places that extend beyond the imagination, and secrets no longer consigned to the dark.
 
MY REVIEW:
Not a book I would ordinarily head for, I came via Claudine when chatting with an author friend about trying to find a home for my rather risqué novel, Boomerang Beach. This bestselling author revealed a secret – she had written a sexy novel herself! So of course, I nabbed copy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This author’s writing is, without fail, so polished and smooth and Claudine is no exception. The attention to detail is sensual, provocative and painterly. Claudine herself was a work of art and I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes prepping for a night out with high-class clientele. There were moments when I felt as if Claudine was a Harlequin romance on Viagra or steroids, particularly when it came to the romantic side of things, but this didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the read – in fact, to the contrary!
Note to readers, the book contains explicit eroticism.
 
-.-
 
A SEASON AMONG PSYCHICS By Elizabeth Green (Inanna Publications)
 
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Judith, at fifty, feels that her life is irremediably stalled, and she is depressed. Although she has a secure job teaching English Literature at a university, she is the single mother of a son on the autistic spectrum who has been lurching through the school system, year by year. Buried under the surface of her life, is her longing to write, and her deep feelings for Brian, a man who taught her in a creative writing program, and with whom she has telepathic connection. When Judtih meets Rosetta Kempffer at a psychic fair, she doesn't imagine that anything could change a life that seems so hopelessly stuck. Rosetta suggests Judith take a course from her in psychic healing, and although Judith is skeptical, she signs up, not expecting it to make a bit of difference. Yet, during the course, Judith learns not only techniques and awareness of healing, but also the truth of "things not seen with the bodily vision," and the profound connection between teaching and healing. (
 
 
MY REVIEW:
A fascinating, funny and thorough journey into the mystical realms of life in a human body and beyond. Whether you’re a believer in alternative healing or not, this book will refresh your soul and lift your spirits. Try something different and spend A Season Among Psychics!